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Harkins addresses red light camera issues


A handful of people said they were leaving a “red light camera” public forum with their fears appeased, Thursday, Sept. 24.

“I like what I heard. I understand a lot more. … The system should help,” audience member Richard Pierre told newly appointed Town photo enforcement manager Ben Harkins, a captain in the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

“This sounds very good,” Pierre’s wife, Kathy, said.

“You answered all my questions,” Daniel Andrews agreed.

Harkins began the hour-long forum with a quick explanation of the Redflex camera system, currently being installed at three Farragut intersections.

The cameras will go live Oct. 2 at the intersections at Kingston Pike and Campbell Station Road, Kingston Pike and Concord Road, and Kingston Pike and Smith Road.


A camera will be placed at the intersection of Campbell Station, Parkside Drive and Grigsby Chapel Road when the CSR road-widening project is completed sometime next year.

Oct. 2 begins a 45-day warning period, Harkins said, when motorists who break the law will be issued warning citations. After the 45 days, citations will be issued in earnest.

“This isn’t to get bad drivers; this is to get people who aren’t paying attention to pay attention and people who break the law to stop,” Harkins said.

He then addressed many oft-asked questions, including concerns that yellow lights often are shortened when red light cameras are put in place.

“The Town has studied all yellow light times and will ensure no times are changed, whether shortened or lengthened,” Harkins said.

Town Engineer Darryl Smith, in attendance at the meeting, said the timing of the yellow lights at the four intersections to be monitored vary between 4 and 4.5 seconds.

Richard Pierre asked Harkins about turning right on red, and what constituted a true “stop.”

“When your wheels stop turning, you’ve stopped,” Harkins said, before adding the “two-second rule,” waiting two seconds after you’ve stopped before starting again, is “a pretty safe practice.”

Tennessee law requires motorists to stop before the crosswalk or before entering the intersection before turning right on red, Harkins said. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t familiar with driving on roads in Farragut.

“Sometimes you have to scoot up to see,” Harkins said.

“We’re not going to sneak up on you and give you a citation for that,” he added.

Even if “scooting up” did trigger the camera, Harkins said, he still had to approve every violation before a citation is sent.

“If the camera doesn’t know, I’ll know,” he said.

Harkins also stressed the cameras are not triggered to take pictures until the light turns red.

The system uses in-ground loop sensors to measure an approaching vehicle’s speed. If it senses that car is going too fast to stop before entering the intersection on red, it will take three pictures: one of the car’s approach, one of the car in the intersection and one of the vehicle’s license plate.

“The system is not activated at all until the light turns red,” Harkins said.

“You’ve already cleared up my biggest concern … I thought you had to be through the intersection before the light turns red,” Richard Pierre said.

Answering questions about the Town using the camera system as a revenue generator, Harkins explained the Town would have to cover costs to implement it first.

While there is no cost to install the equipment, the Town must pay for Harkins to man the system, building that kind of infrastructure from nothing, since the Town has no police force.

“It really isn’t about the revenue as far as the Town is concerned,” Harkins said.

Adding, the Town was installing the cameras for another reason altogether.

“The most exciting aspect of this program is getting drivers to pay attention and to obey the law,” Harkins said.

“If it prevents just one [crash], the system has certainly paid for itself.

“I can’t imagine anybody would think it could be a bad thing to stop that from happening here in Farragut one time,” he added.

The Town will host another red light camera forum at 7 p.m., today, Thursday, Oct. 1, at Town Hall.

 

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